A peculiar obsession I have is to locate interesting scenes in movies and find those locations on
Google Earth. It is a type of exploring and is most interesting when it is difficult but not impossible
to find. For instance, the water world of Interstellar could have been filmed anywhere -- it is just
water and thus falls in the "impossible" category other than we're told it was Iceland. So I look at various
clues; sun angles, vegetation and wildlife, especially birds, prevailing wind. Streams reveal slope of land
even if slow moving; you can inspect sandbars and undercuts to figure out which way the water is flowing.
Then you go hunting. Sometimes it is easy, usually not so easy.
Some movie filming locations for "Wind River" 2017
- (LL 41.161845 -111.052681) Wyoming Ranch at 1 hour 1 minute 53 sec. The scene is flying over
soft rocks then a rather desolate ranch covered in snow on a dark and dreary day. A convoy of law
enforcement travels from right to left on a lonely road. This one took hours to find. Not many clues, no
sunshine to give sense of direction, not a lot of geology. Soft rock easily eroded suggests young deposits,
rounded profiles suggests relatively gentle slopes and no nearby drainage. No obvious folding or other
structures. The view to the west determined by looking at the snowpack which will be thicker on the
north-facing slopes of valleys. Sage is the predominant vegetation. Turns out it is highway 151 south from
Evanston, Wyoming, and barely inside the Utah border. The ranch there is probably not all that significant
to the movie but sure looks like Wyoming. I spent hours studying both sides of the Wind River mountains trying
to find this.
- (LL 40.815233 -111.393564). The Death Face ending scene. This was exceptionally difficult for
lack of visual cues, no sense of direction, the snow was created for the scene and cannot be used to suggest
north. There's a road in the background. An accoustic analysis "speed fix" would have helped (rate of change of doppler versus
absolute change in pitch will tell you how far away and how fast they were going). Clues include that small
building on the right and a rather tall white T-shaped structure, too tall for a laundry line. I decided it was
probably a parking lot with an outbuilding.
Some movie filming locations for "Interstellar"
- (LL 50.406424 -114.204275) Cooper's Farm. In the extras disk, you can see more clues as to
location. In particular the rancher, Rick Sears, explains that the field is at 4100 feet
elevation. Directional clues are somewhat scarce but the evening shot showing sunset identifies
west by a bit north since it is a high latitude and summertime. You can be more precise using
http://suncalc.net. Anyway, knowing that the creek flows from the southwest toward the farmhouse
combined with elevation narrows the possibilities. Also, to the north is mostly unobstructed
but to the south a small rise and then a larger hill of 400 to 600 feet elevation above the surrounding
terrain. Another scene, telephoto lens, not guaranteed to be of the same location, shows the
highway which is Highway 22, the "Cowboy Trail". Also you'll notice a natural gas pipeline access
point (pipe and valves above ground) next to the highway. In an amazing bit of good luck, you can still
see the field that had been planted in corn just for this movie and the exact location of the farmhouse
and outbuildings although of course they are removed and a pretty good job erasing their existence.
- (LL 49.661297 -112.277747). The Drone Capture. Chin Lakes east of Lethbridge and south of
Taber. Many candidates for this one so I looked for a lake with windmills and a pumping station near
the pickup truck. So, here it is.
Some movie filming locations for "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" with Ben Stiller.
The Latitude/Longitude are here shown in decimal format. Just paste the numbers into the
Google Earth search to take you there.
- (LL 65.077367 -22.724654) Walter Mitty arrives in what is named Nuuq, Greenland, but is filmed at Stykkisholmur in northwest Iceland.
The town hall was painted black and was where Walter Mitty finds a somewhat besotted helicopter
pilot. I didn't need a geographic clue for this one; I've been there and recognized it. For purposes of economy you can
suspect that other scenes were filmed nearby and that is sometimes the case.
- 54:45: (LL 64.928305 -23.251167) Walter Mitty arriving at Iceland on a ship at the port Grundarfjorthur.
That's the actual name of the place and it is a few miles west from Stykkisholmur where the helicopter
- 54:55: (LL 65.875591 -23.477337) Inspecting a map of Iceland, the finger is pointing to Thingeyri -- a
town that does actually exist at the indicated spot in northwest Iceland (West Fjords). Nearby to the right,
where the highway takes a shortcut across the fjord, in reality is the hamlet of Hvammur but in the movie map
this is called Stykkisholmur. The real Stykkisholmur is considerably to the south on the Snaefells Peninsula. Also adjacent to the movie-town Stykkisholmur is the glacier Eyjafjallajokull but in reality it is far away in
south-central Iceland. Because of these alterations, I wonder if there's any surprises or "easter eggs" on
- 56:08: (LL 64.289522 -15.081403) Walter Mitty riding a bicycle. The first curvy road part is indeed the
road east from Grudarfjorthur but suddenly you are transported all the way across Iceland diagonally to the
town of Hofn.
Geographic clues: Direction is revealed by shadow if you can tell the time. Time of day is discernible by the
length of the shadow. At 64 degrees north, the shortest shadow -- at local solar noon -- is going to be
about a 45 degree angle which is what we see. Therefore the scene was shot around noon and that means
the road is aligned to the southeast, so is the cliff, and the sea o the south -- placing us on the southern coast of
Iceland although other candidates exist in some fjords. There's actually two scenes here, one riding northwest as seen
from a distance up on the cliff and another scene where he's riding under the powerlines going southeast (that's the LL).
The mountain is unusual. Most Icelandic mountains taper off toward the sea but this one has an abrupt rise just before
being cut off by the sea. Vegetation is sparse suggesting recent volcanic activity. The road is paved and just
about the only road paved in Iceland, outside Reykjavik, is the "Ring Road". No discernible highway traffic so that
suggests a far distance from Reyjkjavik.
- 56:12: (LL 64.832073 -22.246839) Walter Mitty riding a bicycle across cultivated pasture in the background and rocky
lava field in the foreground with some impressive but highly eroded cliffs behind a solitary farmi, a small mountain called
Ljosufjoll (Ljos is "light" and fjoll is hill or small mountain). It does indeed catch the evening sunlight beautifully.
This scene was not very easy to find.
The clues are: low sun angle hence morning or evening -- but which? There's no obvious way to tell except most Icelanders
prefer to stay up late and not get up early (except of course farmers and fishermen).
The angle of the strata and the layering provide some clue since it is a bit
unique to northwest Iceland but not all the way out in the fjords.
- 57:48: (LL 64.117502 -21.471984) Walter Mitty falls off a bicycle next to a geothermal hot water pipe and powerlines.
The road is highway 435 east-northeast from Reykjavik. The clues are fairly obvious in this case -- Geothermal water and
power. That is found pretty much in only three places: Krafla, but they don't export hot water, Blue Lagoon which
exports hot water but not along a highway, and Nesjavallavirkyun at Thingvallavatn. There's another geothermal station
nearby the latter also feeding Reykjavik. So it is a simple matter to find a road traveling along a pipeline and powerlines.
- 58:11: (LL 63.931082 -20.649595) Walter Mitty running across a bridge. This is the old bridge over Thjorsa (Theor-sau).
I found this one by simply Googling "Iceland bridge" and looking at photos.
- 59:54: (LL 64.020649 -21.398920) Walter Mitty trades Stretch Armstrong for a longboard (long skateboard). In the movie
this place is called a hotel but is more of a restaurant, more or less Skithaska'linn (that's what it is but this terminal
client won't do the Icelandic characters needed for proper spelling). It took a long time to find this one. As with
the above, sun angle provides a clue and there's a glimpse of a clock in the kitchen, fuzzy but either 10 minutes after
12 or 2 p.m. Either way, gives a good clue about direction. Combine that with free-standing geothermal hot water and
it narrows the choices somewhat.
- 1:01:28 (LL 65.232251 -14.122349) Moments later he finds himself at the head of a valley and wishes to go down, which he does on the longboard (skateboard).
The first view of it is at the head of the valley looking east. At the bottom of the road is
the town Seythisfjorthur and the Aldan hotel where he fetches a ride to escape the "Eldgos" (eruption, "eld" is fire).
Once again the primary clue is shadows, this time the valley on the right is shadowed suggesting you are looking east. Not
many paved roads descend eastward into a fjord.
- 1:01:43 Altered scenery: You can see a discoloration in the valley at the "s" curves halfway down. That's because the road
has been altered in the movie. The first two bends are really there but the road then becomes relatively straight down to
the town. In the movie three "s" curves have been added that plainly are not needed right there. Anyway, when he rides down
the road it is "real" and the spurious s-curves aren't there.
- Heading out of Seythisfjorthur they take a dead-end road out to the end of the fjord. In the movie, however,
this is a reasonable escape route.
- 1:04:58 (LL 64.540172 -21.908063) Diamond-shaped Mount Skessuhorn prominently in the background across a placid fjord. The dust-covered SUV
arrives in Borgarnes traveling more or less north having cross a bridge over the fjord. Looking out the window one sees
a Papa John's restaurant, in the movie that is, but in reality it is...
- 1:05:22 Geirabakarí Café Konditori adjacent to Hagkaup. I recognized Hagkaup as a department store chain fairly widespread
in Iceland so I went to their website, located the locations of Hagkaup, chose a few that had suitable pointy mountains in
the vicinity, and went looking. The hard part was Google Earth doesn't know the street address of the Borgarnes location.
However, entering the same street address into Google turned up a cafe (and Hagkaup department store and Bonus grocery store)
which included a photograph from inside the cafe revealing its location at the edge of the fjord, the very first thing
you encounter on arriving at Borgarnes from the south.
- He stays in Borgarnes until 1:09:47 having a cellphone conversation with his ladyfriend and ends with the text message
from Hernando. Then he returns to New York City (I suppose that's where it is).
- 1:18:35 He's back in Iceland, but this time it is a proxy for eastern Afghanistan, the Himalayan mountains. About half of
Iceland looks like this so there's not much point trying to figure out exactly where. But probably along the Sprengisandur
road north from Gulfoss.
- 1:18:53 (LL 63.530804 -19.513220) Easily recognized and very unique Skogafoss, one of the most beautiful sights in Iceland.
- 1:22:56 Sean Penn operating a Nikon camera (FT3?) with 400mm f2.8 Nikkor lens.
Three Days To Kill
- (LL 44.829433 20.420547) Opening scene. Hotel Jugoslavija (Yugoslavia) in Beograde (Belgrade), Serbia, I think. This year anyway.
- (LL 49.737302 0.290388) Final scene. La Plage - Vaucottes, Vattetot-sur-Mer, France. Northwest of Paris on the
Rambo: First Blood
- (LL 49.381864 -121.424000) Hope, British Columbia, Canada.
Rambo crosses this bridge into the town where he is arrested and eventually destroys part of it.
Next with Nicholas Cage
- (LL 34.227268 -117254147) This is the hotel at the edge of a cliff where Nicolas Cage unsuccessfully stashes his girlfriend.
It is on "Rim of the World Highway" overlooking San Bernardino from the north.
- (LL 46.192926 -123.799694) The Goonies House in Astoria, Oregon.